Durba Chattaraj

Lecturer in Princeton Writing Program and Anthropology
214 New South

Anthropology and writing, the art and craft of ethnography, anthropology and the essay, public anthropology, anthropology for wide audiences, anthropology and pedagogy, critical pedagogy, anthropology and the enlightenment, the enlightenment and its discontents, theory from the South, expertise and amateurism, economic anthropology, globalization, space, infrastructure, politics, poetics, Global Englishes, and Hinglishes, and South Asia 

Short Bio
Durba Chattaraj is an anthropologist who teaches writing, and a writer who teaches anthropology. She is a Lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program and in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. 

After completing her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at Yale -- where her research focused on highways that connect rural and urban space in India -- she fell into the University of Pennsylvania's Critical Writing Program, where she found a welcoming interdisciplinary home. After five years at Penn, in 2015 she moved to New Delhi, India where she was one of the first-32 faculty to found a brand-new liberal arts university -- Ashoka University -- now widely considered to be one of India's leading spaces of higher education. Durba served as Ashoka's first Director of Writing, as well as one of the first-two faculty members to found its Department of Sociology and Anthropology. During her time at Ashoka, Durba worked with colleagues across the country to develop the nascent discipline of writing pedagogy in India. Drawing on her experience at Penn, she crafted writing curricula for Ashoka's undergraduate and postgraduate writing programs, as well as for several leading technical and liberal arts institutions within the subcontinent. These varied experiences have left Durba with a keen appreciation for the necessity of practicing a wide anthropology that speaks to multiple audiences, as well as the urgency of developing writing and critical thinking curricula in many places in the Global South, where these have been deliberately left out of pedagogical practice due to colonial legacies that die hard. 

Durba is currently working on, as well as extravagantly procrastinating on, two book manuscripts. The first, A Poetic Economy of Parts of Post-Liberalisation India, is based on her fieldwork along highways in West Bengal. The second, Essays on Teaching and Learning in India, focuses on the relationship between writing, reasoning, and democracy in India, and draws on Durba's twelve years of experience as a teacher of writing, critical thinking, and anthropology. 

Durba is committed to writing for wide reading audiences, and to the genre of the essay, which sits in some tension with the genre of the peer-reviewed journal article. Some of her recent publications can be found here.

Selected Publications

Chattaraj, Durba. "Reading the Dawn of Everything from India." Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/1017047/reading-the-dawn-of-everything-from-india-what-if-the-past-was-a-more-enlightened-place

Chattaraj, Durba. “Zoom’s Ghazal” in Journal of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. July 2021. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anhu.12336

Chattaraj, Durba. “Anthropology and Writing Pedagogy: Why (and How) Anthropologists Should Teach Writing Seminars.” Teaching Anthropology, 2019. https://www.teachinganthropology.org/ojs/index.php/teach_anth/article/view/475

Chattaraj, Durba. “Mortality and Writing Pedagogy.” Special Issue of Cafe Dissensus on Writing in Academia. Issue 50 (2019).

Chattaraj, Durba. “A Blueprint for Creating New Readers in the Post-Pandemic World.” Scroll.in. May 2020. https://scroll.in/article/962995/a-blueprint-for-creating-new-readers-in-the-post-pandemic-world-or-what-publishers-need-to-do

Chattaraj, Durba. “V.S. Naipaul: Writing the World.” Open Magazine. August 2018. https://openthemagazine.com/features/in-memoriam-features/vs-naipaul-writing-the-world/

Chattaraj, Durba. “What India Could have Learned from France’s Experience of Demonetisation in the 1840s”. DailyO. November 2017.